A person who specializes in destroying the wills of unruly slaves. Most often used in the context of the antebellum American South.
Great George was acting up, so his master sent him to a slave breaker.
When Frederick was about 12, Auld’s [slave-holder] wife, Sophia, began teaching him how to read. When Auld found out. he made his wife stop, saying that reading would only make a black slave discontented. Frederick Douglass later said that it was the first antislavery speech he had ever heard.
True to Thomas Auld’s prediction, reading apparently did make Frederick dis-contented. Auld began having trouble with Frederick and took him, at the age of 16,
to Edward Covey, a known “slave breaker.” Frederick was beaten regularly and given little food. The experience nearly broke him. He attempted escape on three different occasions. A light finally dawned for the future abolitionist in the person of Anna Murray, a free black woman living in Baltimore. Her life and presence gave Frederick new hope, and finally, in 1838 he made a successful escape to New York City. Murray had provided him with money and a sailor’s uniform, and he carried identification papers provided by a free black sailor. Of that day Douglass (1882) wrote,
A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the “quick
round of blood,” I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life I felt as one might feel who had escaped from a den of hungry lions, (p. 170 )
Douglass continued his self-directed education, subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, and soon began attending abolitionist meetings. Garrison (n.d.) was a white abolitionist who didn’t pull any punches when it came to racial inequality: “I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with mod¬eration. … I am in earnest-—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD” (n.p.). Soon after beginning to read The Liberator, Douglass (1882) had a chance to hear him speak: “I sat away back in the hall and listened to his might words—might in truth—might in simple earnestness” (p. 181).
In the summer of 1841, Garrison invited Douglass to accompany him to an abolitionist meeting, which he gladly accepted. While the meeting was in progress, a man who had heard Douglass speak with his “colored friends” at a schoolhouse, approached him and invited him to address the meeting. Douglass said he “trem- bled in every limb” hut spoke to the group. After the meeting, John Collins, the general agent tor the Massachusetts Antislavery Association, asked Douglass to become one of its regular agents. The position would involve travel and speaking to groups, and Douglass was at first hesitant, unsure of his skill and afraid that public speaking would expose him to the slave master he had fled.
Yet he ultimately took the position and spent the next few years speaking in churches and at abolitionist meetings. Though he always drew a crowd, people in the crowd would often heckle and at times violence broke out. Because of his eloquence and intelligence, many whites were convinced Douglass had never been a slave. Eventually, this wore on him, so he decided to write out his life. He published his first autobiography: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1882). The book was a best seller in the United States and was also published in Europe.
Gaus s address began a movement for a “public sociology,” one that was later advanced by Michael Burawoy (2005) in his own ASA presidential address: “the standpoint of sociology is civil society and the defense of the social. In times of market tyranny and state despotism, sociology—and in particular its public face—defends the interests of humanity” (p. 24). Ben Agger (2000) sees the busi-ness of public sociology as moving from social facts to literary acts. Agger’s “intent is to foster a public sociology, which acknowledges that it is a literary version, confesses its animating assumptions and investments, and addresses crucial public issues” (p. 2).
Public sociology refers to an approach to the discipline which seeks to transcend the academy in order to engage with wider audiences. It is perhaps best understood as a style of sociology rather than a particular method, theory, or set of political values. Michael Burawoy contrasted it with professional sociology, a form of academic sociology that is concerned primarily with addressing other professional sociologists.
Burawoy and other promoters of public sociology have sought to encourage the discipline to engage in explicitly public and political ways with issues stimulated by debates over public policy, political activism, the purposes of social movements, and the institutions of civil society. If there has been a “movement” associated with public sociology, then, it is one that has sought to revitalize the discipline of sociology by leveraging its empirical methods and theoretical insights to engage in debates not just about what is or what has been in society, but about what society might yet be. Thus, many versions of public sociology have had an undeniably normative and political character—a fact that has led a significant number of sociologists to oppose the approach.
The term “public sociology” was first introduced by Herbert Gans, in a 1988 address entitled “Sociology in America: The Discipline and the Public.” For Gans, primary examples of public sociologists included David Riesman, author of The Lonely Crowd, one of the best-selling books of sociology ever to be written, and Robert Bellah, the lead author of another best-selling work, Habits of the Heart. In 2000, sociologist Ben Agger wrote a book entitled Public Sociology: From Social Facts to Literary Acts which called for a sociology that addressed major public issues. Since Michael Burawoy’s 2004 Presidency of the American Sociological Association on a public sociology platform the phrase has received a great deal of attention and debate.
Debates over public sociology have rekindled questions concerning the extra-academic purpose of sociology. Public sociology raises questions about what sociology is and what its goals ought to (or even could) be. Such debates – over science and political advocacy, scholarship and public commitment – have a long history in American sociology and in American social science more generally. Historian Mark C. Smith, for instance, has investigated earlier debates over the purpose of social science in his book, Social Science in the Crucible: The American Debate over Objectivity and Purpose,1918-1941 (Duke University Press, 1994). And Stephen Park Turner and Jonathan H. Turner showed how the discipline’s search for a purpose, through dependence on external publics, has limited Sociology’s potential in their book, The Impossible Science: An Institutional Analysis of American Sociology (Sage, 1990).
While there is no one definition of “public sociology”, the term has come to be widely associated with Burawoy’s particular perspective of sociology. Burawoy’s personal statement for the ASA elections provides a succinct summary of his position: “As mirror and conscience of society, sociology must define, promote and inform public debate about deepening class and racial inequalities, new gender regimes, environmental degradation, market fundamentalism, state and non-state violence. I believe that the world needs public sociology – a sociology that transcends the academy – more than ever. Our potential publics are multiple, ranging from media audiences to policy makers, from silenced minorities to social movements. They are local, global, and national. As public sociology stimulates debate in all these contexts, it inspires and revitalizes our discipline. In return, theory and research give legitimacy, direction, and substance to public sociology. Teaching is equally central to public sociology: students are our first public for they carry sociology into all walks of life. Finally, the critical imagination, exposing the gap between what is and what could be, infuses values into public sociology to remind us that the world could be different.”
A significant number of those who practice sociology either as public intellectuals or as academic professionals do not subscribe to the specific version of “public sociology” defended by Michael Burawoy or to any version of “public sociology” at all. And in the wake of Burawoy’s 2004 Presidency of the American Sociological Association, which put the theme of public sociology in the limelight, the project of public sociology has been vigorously debated on the web, in conversations among sociologists, and in a variety of academic journals.
Specifically, Burawoy’s vision of public sociology has been critiqued both by “critical” sociologists and by representatives of academic sociology. These various discussions of public sociology have been included in forums devoted to the subject in academic journals such as Social Problems, Social Forces, Critical Sociology, and the British Journal of Sociology . Public sociology faces fierce criticism on the grounds of both of its logic and its goals. Its critics claim that it is based on a false premise of consensus in the sociological community, arguing that “it greatly overestimates the uniformity of the moral and political agenda of sociologists.”  They question the possibility and the desirability of such moral agreement, pointing out that “almost every social issue involves moral dilemmas, not moral clarity. What is or is not ‘just’ is almost never unambiguous.”. Others argue that public sociology is based on an uncritical and overly idealistic perception of the public sphere.
Even stronger critiques come from academics who believe that the program of public sociology will unduly politicise the discipline and thus endanger the legitimacy sociology has in the public dialog. These critics argue that the project of building a reliable body of knowledge about society is fundamentally incompatible with the goals of public sociology: “To the extent that we orient our work around moral principles, we are less likely to attend to theoretical issues. The greater the extent to which we favor particular outcomes, the less able are we to design our work to actually access such outcomes. And the more ideologically oriented our objectives, the less the chance that we can recognize or assimilate contrary evidence. In other words, rather than good professional sociology being mutually interactive with public sociology, I believe that public sociology gets in the way of good professional sociology.” 
One outspoken critic of public sociology was sociologist Mathieu Deflem of the University of South Carolina, who wrote various papers against public sociology and argued that public sociology:
“is neither public nor sociology. Public sociology is not a plea to make sociology more relevant to the many publics in society nor to connect sociology democratically to political activity. Of course sociologists should be public intellectuals. But they should be and can only be public intellectuals as practitioners of the science they practice, not as activists left or right. Yet public sociology instead is a quest to subsume sociology under politics, a politics of a specific kind, not in order to foster sociological activism but to narrow down the sociological discipline to activist sociology.”
In opposition to public sociology, Deflem used to maintain the website, SaveSociology.org.
For example, anytime we use the terms third world nation, modernization, or globalization, we are positioning ourselves within the West/Rest discourse and implicit Western superiority.
Discourse is a theoretical concept that is widely used but is most specifically associated with the contemporary work of Michel Foucault. A discourse is an institutionalized way of thinking and speaking. It sets the limits of what can be spoken and, more importantly, how something may be spoken of. In setting these limits, discourses delineate the actors in a field, their relationships to one another, and their subjectivities. Discourses are thus an exercise of power.
• Our theoretical interest in Douglass’s work revolves around the idea of dis¬course. Discourse is a specific way of talking about something. It is common—we all use discourse—but it is also powerful because the discourse of an issue determines how we can think and talk about it. Moreover, discourse can be oppressive because it sets out the possibilities and impossibilities of specific social relations and experiences.
• Discourses also contain contradictory elements that can be used by disenfranchised groups to further their cause in a democracy. Douglass is particularly adept at this, using the ideas of Other and universalism to counter the discourse of slavery and race.
What happens when a generic term and specific one coincide? How does Hofstader call this phenomenon?
It’s important to see that this denial is more profound than what occurs in gen¬der. In Chapter 7, we considered Beauvoir’s notion of the Other, with man as the standard and woman the Other. This is one reason why the second wave of femi- nism was concerned about the language of gender. Using such terms as man and he to represent people generally, helps establish men as the universal. Douglas Hofstadter (1985) calls this the “slippery slope of sexism”: “When a generic term and a ‘marked’ term… coincide, there is a possibility of mental blurring on the part of listeners and even on the part of the speaker” (p. 151). Hofstadter gives an example of a newscast that announces that the four-man space shuttle is on schedule. There may in fact be three women and a man, but we can’t know that from the report. The point is that some of the general, “men as all humanity,” is transferred over to specific men in particular. This sort of Otherness in gender denies the woman’s subjective experiences and authenticity.
Beginning in 1786, just after the American Revolution the British society, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, launched its efforts to establish the Sierra Leone Province of Freedom for escaped colonial slaves. Paul Cuffee, a wealthy mixed-race New England shipowner and activist, was an early advocate of settling freed blacks in Africa. He gained support from black leaders and members of the US Congress for an emigration plan. In 1811 and 1815-16, he financed and captained successful voyages to British-ruled Sierra Leone, where he helped African-American immigrants get established. Although Cuffee died in 1817, his efforts may have inspired the American Colonization Society (ACS) to initiate further settlements.
The ACS was a coalition made up mostly of evangelicals and Quakers who supported abolition, and Chesapeake slaveholders who understood that unfree labor did not constitute the economic future of the nation. They found common ground in support of so-called “repatriation”. They believed blacks would face better chances for full lives in Africa than in the United States. The slaveholders opposed state or federally mandated abolition, but saw repatriation as a way to remove free blacks and avoid slave rebellions. From 1821, thousands of free black Americans moved to Liberia from the United States. Over twenty years, the colony continued to grow and establish economic stability. In 1847, the legislature of Liberia declared the nation an independent state.
Critics have said the ACS was a racist society, while others point to its benevolent origins and later takeover by men with visions of an American empire in Africa. The Society closely controlled the development of Liberia until its declaration of independence. By 1867, the ACS had assisted in the movement of more than 13,000 Americans to Liberia. From 1825 to 1919, it published the African Repository and Colonial Journal. After 1919, the society had essentially ended, but it did not formally dissolve until 1964, when it transferred its papers to the Library of Congress.
Although Taney hoped that his ruling would settle the slavery question once and for all, the decision immediately spurred vehement dissent from anti-slavery elements in the North, especially Republicans. Most scholars today (as did many contemporary lawyers) consider the ruling regarding slavery in the territories to be dictum, not binding precedent. The decision would prove to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War. It was functionally superseded by the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave blacks full citizenship. As of 2007 it is widely regarded by scholars as the worst decision made by the United States Supreme Court.
The Back-to-Africa movement was one of the issues that eventually split Douglass and Garrison, especially as it became intertwined with the Constitution. Though he eventually left the American Colonization Society, Garrison argued that the Constitution was racist to its core and the only way to bring equality was to dissolve the Union; Douglass argued that the Constitution was free of racism and could be used to bring about universal equality. Douglass’s position is nowhere clearer than in his response to the Dred Scott Decision. Dred Scott v. John E A. Sandford is a case that was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. Scott was a slave who was born in a slave state but whose master had taken him to live in states
where slavery was prohibited. The Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision ruled that Scott couldn’t sue because blacks had no rights of citizenship. Further, the judges argued that the framers of the Constitution saw blacks as an inferior race having no rights that a white man was legally bound to respect, and that a decision in favor of Scott could be seen as granting the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to all men of the Negro race.
In his response to the Dred Scott Decision, Douglass addressed Garrison directly. Garrison and his crew had been telling Douglass (1857/2009d), “while in the Union, we are responsible for slavery” (p. 255). Douglass agreed, but Douglass disagreed fervently with Garrison’s solution of dissolving or leaving the Union: “in telling us that we shall cease to be responsible for slavery by dissolving the Union, he and they have not told us the truth” (p. 255). Douglass likened it to family responsibility: A man may desert his family and move miles away. Though he would be out of sight of his children, “it cannot free him from responsibility. Though he should roll the waters of three oceans between him and them, he could not roll from his soul the burden of this responsibility” (p. 255). Douglass sees his and every American’s responsibility as tightly bound to the ethical and moral responsibilities of democracy. Douglass finds the basis for this argument in the Constitution.
The reason that Douglass and Lincoln refer to the Declaration is that it embodies “the pure spirit of the nation’s Idea” (Wills, 1978, p. xviii). Lincoln confirms that the phrase “all men are created equal” did nothing to separate us from Great Britain; it was put in for future use. Its authors meant it to be—as, thank God, it is now proving itself—a stumbling block … to all those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. (Lincoln, as quoted in Wills, 1978, p. xviii)
We talked about the importance of the Idea of democracy in Chapter 1 as well. Through Douglass, we’re beginning to see the significance of the idea: It’s the idea of democracy, not the reality that propels us forward. The idea of all men are created equal is a constant challenge to the way we live our lives with other people. It’s that tension between fact and ideal that is the energy of democracy.
In this way, civil society is transcendent—and in this way, civil society is never complete. These two go together: Democracy is an ongoing project (never com¬plete) precisely because it is transcendent. In an insight that many today have forgotten, Douglass (1863/2009c) tells us that social equality “does not exist anywhere” (p. 271, emphasis added). In other words, democracy wasn’t finished after the founding documents were penned and democratic institutions put in place. No, equality does not exist anywhere as a settled state—it is the pursuit of equality, free¬dom, and happiness that marks a democratic society. The question for Douglass isn’t about whether social equality exists, nor is it about blacks being “mentally equal to his white brother,” nor is it about whether a black man “will be likely to reach the Presidential chair.” The issue for Douglass is whether or not black and white people in this country can “be blended into a common nationality, and enjoy together… the inestimable blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (p. 271). Democracy, then, never exists as such. It must be won anew not only with every generation, but with every possibility of extending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to others.
What is Pan-Africanism?
How did DB end his life?
What was entitled DB’s most notable work?
he wonders, “Who and what is this I…?”Du Bois isn’t being self-centered, nor is he unaware of the rules of composition. He is being quite deliberate in his use of personal pronouns and the centered subject. Du Bois is a social scientist and pro¬duced one of the first systematic studies of African Americans, yet he also tells us that race is not something that can be understood through the cold, disassociated stance of the researcher. Race and all marginal positions must be experienced to be understood. Du Bois uses his life as the canvas upon which to paint the struggles of the black race in America and in the world: “that men may listen to the striving in the souls of black folk” (Du Bois, 1903/1996d, p. 107, emphasis added).
There are two things I think this subjective stance implies: The first is my own comment, and the other is something I think Du Bois has in mind. First, any sec-ondary reading of Du Bois, such as the book you have in your hands, falls short of the mark. This is generally true of any of the thinkers in this book—you would be much richer reading Durkheim than reading what somebody says about Durkheim—but it is particularly true of Du Bois. Part of what you can acquire from reading Du Bois is an experience, and that experience is a piece of what Du Bois wants to communicate.
The second implication of Du Bois’s multidimensional, subjective approach is theoretical. Du Bois (1903/1996d) says that:
the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second- sight in this American World,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world, (p. 102)
Thus, Du Bois is saying that because of their experiential position, African Americans are gifted with special insight, a prophetic vision, into the American world. They see themselves not simply as they are; they also see their position from the perspective of the other world. In other words, blacks and other oppressed groups have a particular point of view of society that allows them to see certain truths about the social system that escape others. This idea of critical consciousness goes back to Marx. Marxian philosophy argues that only those on the outside of a system can understand its true workings; it is difficult to critically and reflexively understand a system if you accept its legitimation. In other words, capitalists and those who benefit from capitalism by definition believe in capitalism. It is difficult for a capitalist to understand the oppressive workings of capitalism because in doing so the person would be condemning her- or himself.
Contemporary feminists argue that it is the same with patriarchy: Men have a vested interest in the patriarchal system and will thus have a tendency to believe the ideology and have difficulty critiquing their own position. Dorothy Smith, a con-temporary feminist, refers to this as standpoint theory. In general, this refers to a theory that is produced from the point of view of an oppressed subject:
an inquiry into a totality of social relations beginning from a site outside and prior to textual discourses. Women’s standpoint [is seen] here as specifically subversive of the standpoint of a knowledge of ourselves and our society vested in relations of ruling. (D. E. Smith, 1987, p. 212)
Du Bois is thus arguing that African Americans have, by virtue of their position, a critical awareness of the American social system. This awareness can be a cultural resource that facilitates structural change. As Du Bois (1903/1996d) puts it, “This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius” (p. 102).
an inquiry into a totality of social relations beginning from a site outside and prior to textual discourses. Women’s standpoint [is seen] here as specifically subversive of the standpoint of a knowledge of ourselves and our society vested in relations of ruling. (D. E. Smith, 1987, p. 212)
Du Bois was a prolific writer, so I have chosen to focus on particular points of his discourse about race. In my opinion, Du Bois’s lasting contribution to social theory is his understanding of cultural oppression. In the following section on cultural oppression, we will see that it is just as necessary as structural oppression in the suppression of a social group. Du Bois’s understanding of this process is quite good. He argues that cultural oppression involves exclusion from history, specific kinds of symbolic representations, and the use of stereotypes and their cultural logic of default assumptions. This cultural work results in a kind of “double con¬sciousness,” wherein the disenfranchised see themselves from two contradictory points of view. However, Du Bois isn’t only interested in cultural oppression; he also gives us a race-based theory of world capitalism. In the section on the dark nations and world capitalism, we will see that it isn’t only the elite capitalists that benefit from the exploitation of blacks and other people of color; the middle class benefits as well.
What did DB propose to counter these “lies agreed upon”?
History plays an important part in legitimating our social structures; this is known as history as ideology. No one living has a personal memory of why we created the institutions that we have. So, for example, why does the government func¬tion the way it does in the United States? No one personally knows; instead, we have a historical account or story of how and why it came about. Because we weren’t there, this history takes on objective qualities and feels like a fact, and this facticity legitimates our institutions and social arrangements unquestionably. But, Du Bois tells us, the current history is written from a politicized point of view: Because women and people of color were not seen as having the same status and rights as white men, our history did not see them. We have been blind to their contributions and place in society. The fact that we now have Black and Women’s History Months underscores this historical blindness. Du Bois calls this kind of ideological history “lies agreed upon.”
Du Bois, however, holds out the possibility of a scientific history. This kind of history would be guided by ethical standards in research and interpretation, and the record of human action would be written with accuracy and faithfulness of detail. Du Bois envisions this history acting as a guidepost and measuring rod for national conduct. Du Bois presents this formulation of history as a choice: We can either use history “for our pleasure and amusement, for inflating our national ego,” or we can use it as a moral guide and handbook for future generations (Du Bois, 1935/1996c,
(Stuart Hall, Mead, Barthes)
Let me give you an illustration from Du Bois. Cultural domination through representation implies that the predominantly white media do not truly represent people of color. As Du Bois (1920/1996b) says, “The whites obviously seldom pic¬ture brown and yellow folk, but for five hundred centuries they have exhausted every ingenuity of trick, of ridicule and caricature on black folk” (pp. 39-60). The effect of such representation is cultural and psychological: The disenfranchised read the representations and may become ashamed of their own image. Du Bois gives an example from his own work at The Crisis (the official publication of the NAACP). The Crisis put a picture of a black person on the cover of their magazine. When the (predominantly black) readers saw the representation, they perceived it (or consumed it) as “the caricature that white folks intend when they make a black face,” Du Bois queried some of his office staff about the reaction. They said the problem wasn’t that the person was black; the problem was that the person was too black. To this, Du Bois replied, “Nonsense! Do white people complain because their pictures are too white?” (p. 60).
While Du Bois never phrased it quite this way, Roland Barthes (1964/1967), a contemporary semiologist (someone who studies signs), explains that cultural signs, symbols, and images can have both denotative and connotative functions. Denotative functions are the direct meanings. They are the kind of thing you can look up in an ordinary dictionary. Cultural signs and images can also have secondary, or connotative, meanings. These meanings get attached to the original word and create other, wider fields of meaning. At times, these wider fields of meaning can act like myths, creating hidden meanings behind the apparent. Thus, systems of connotation can link ideological messages to more primary, denotative meanings. In cultural oppression, then, the dominant group represents those who are subjugated in such a way that negative connotative meanings and myths are produced. This kind of complex layering of ideological meanings is why members of a disenfranchised group can simultaneously be proud and ashamed of their heritage. As a case in point, the black office colleagues to whom Du Bois refers can be proud of being black but at the same time offer an explanation that an image is too black.
How does cultural legitimation work?
While sociologists gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair. Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defense of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the “higher” against the “lower” races. To which the Negro cries Amen!” (p. 105)
I want to point out that last bit of the quote from Du Bois. He says that the black person agrees with this cultural justification of oppression. Here we can see one of the insidious ways in which cultural legitimation works. It presents us with an apparent truth that, once we agree to it. can reflexively destroy us. Here’s how this bit of cultural logic works: The learned person says that discrimination and prejudice are necessary. Why? They are needed to demarcate the boundaries between civilized and uncivilized, learning and ignorance, morality and sin, right and wrong. We agree that we should be prejudiced against sin and evil, and against uncivilized and barbarous behavior, and we do so in a very concrete manner. For example, we are prejudiced against allowing a criminal in our home. We thus agree that prejudice is a good thing. Once we agree with the general thesis, it can then be more easily turned specifically against us.
Remember I spoke of Hofstadter’s “slippery slope of sexism” in the section on Douglass? Du Bois has a similar slope in mind, but obviously one that entails race. In this section from The Souls of Black Folk from which we have been quoting, Du Bois says that the Negro stands “helpless, dismayed, and well-nigh speechless” before the “nameless prejudice” that becomes expressed in “the all-pervading desire to inculcate disdain for everything black” (Du Bois, 1903/1996d, p. 103). In Darkwater(1920/1996a), Du Bois refers to this slippery slope as a “theory of human culture” (p. 505). This work of culture has “worked itself through warp and woof of our daily thought” We use the term white to analogously refer to everything that is good, pure, and decent. The term black is likewise reserved for things despicable, ignorant, and fearful. There is thus a moral, default assumption in back of these terms that automatically, though not necessarily or even deliberately, includes the cultural identities of white and black.
In our cultural language, we also perceive these two categories as mutually exclusive. For example, we will use the phrase “this issue isn’t black or white” to refer to something that is undecided, that can’t tit in simple, clear, and mutually exclusive categories. The area in between is a gray, no-person’s land. It is culturally logical, then, to perceive unchangeable differences between the black and white races, which is the cultural logic behind the “one drop rule” (the slavery-era determination that one drop of black blood makes someone black). Again, keep in mind that this movement between the specific and general is unthinkingly applied. People don’t have to intentionally use these terms as ways to racially discriminate. The cultural default is simply there, waiting to swallow up the identities and individuals that lay in its path.
From which theory does DB draw to articulate his theory of double-consciousness?
Blacks thus see themselves from at least two different and at times contradictory perspectives.
In several places, Du Bois relates experiences through which his own double consciousness was formed. In this particular one, we can see Cooley’s looking glass at work:
In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others: or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. (Du Bois, 1903/19964, p. 101)
We can thus see in Du Bois’s work a general theory of cultural oppression. That is, every group that is oppressed structurally (economically and politically) will be oppressed culturally. The basic method is as he outlines it: Define and label the group in general as a problem, emphasize and stereotype the group’s shortcomings and define them as intrinsic to the group, employ cultural mechanisms (like misrepresentation and default assumptions) so the negative attributes are taken for granted, and systematically exclude the group from the grand narrative histories of the larger collective.
How does DB tie this back to race and the middle-class?
“World-system” refers to the inter-regional and transnational division of labor, which divides the world into core countries, semi-periphery countries, and the periphery countries. Core countries focus on higher skill, capital-intensive production, and the rest of the world focuses on low-skill, labor-intensive production and extraction of raw materials. This constantly reinforces the dominance of the core countries. Nonetheless, the system has dynamic characteristics, in part as a result of revolutions in transport technology, and individual states can gain or lose their core (semi-periphery, periphery) status over time. For a time, some countries become the world hegemon; during the last few centuries, as the world-system has extended geographically and intensified economically, this status has passed from the Netherlands, to the United Kingdom and (most recently) to the United States of America.
As a result, the economic system inexorably pushes against its national boundaries and seeks a labor force ready for exploitation. This notion of expanding systems and exporting exploitation is part of current world systems theory. World systems theory argues that core nations exploit periphery nations so places like the United States can have high wages and relatively cheap goods. In that theory, the issue is simply the economic standing of a nation, but Du Bois tells us that the reality of those nations is color. “There is a chance for exploitation on an immense scale for inordinate profit, not simply to the very rich, but to the middle class and to the laborers. This chance lies in the exploitation of darker peoples” (Du Bois, 1920/ 1996a, pp. 304-305). These are “dark lands” ripe for exploitation “with only one test of success,—dividends!” (p. 505). In other words, middle-class wages in advanced industrialized nations are based on there being racial groups for exploitation.
As capitalism grew in power and its need for cheap labor increased, indentured and captive slavery moved to chattel slavery. Slavery has existed for much of human history, but it was used primarily as a tool for controlling and punishing a conquered people or criminal behavior, or as a method for people to pay off debt or get ahead. The latter is referred to as indentured servitude. People would contract themselves into slavery, typically tor 7 years, in return for a specific service, like pas¬sage to America, or to pay off debt. In most of these forms of slavery, there were obligations that the master had to the slave, but not so with chattel slavery. Under capitalism, people could be defined as property—the word itself means
property—and there are no obligations of owner to property. In this move to chat¬tel slavery, black became not simply a race but the race of distinction. The existence of race, then, immutably determined who could be owned and who was free, who had rights and who did not.
of the color line.
Origin of the phrase:
It is difficult to find an exact origin of the phrase “the color line”. In 1881 Frederick Douglass published an article with that title in the North American Review.
At the First Pan-African Conference in London in July 1900, the delegates adopted an “Address to the Nations of the World”, drafted by Du Bois and to which he was a signatory, that contained the sentence: “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the colour-line”.
Three years later, in his 1903 book, Du Bois used the phrase first in his introduction, titled “The Forethought”, writing: “This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of color line”. The phrase occurs again in the book’s second essay, “Of the Dawn of Freedom”, at both its beginning and its end. At the outset of the essay, Du Bois writes: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea”. At the end of the essay, Du Bois truncates his statement to: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”, the more frequently quoted version of the sentiment.
Ample nuance exists among the three versions of Du Bois’ prediction, as within a very short amount of text Du Bois provides the reader with three incarnations of the thought. Some of the difference may be the result of the original serialization of the work, as parts of The Souls of Black Folk were originally serialized, many in The Atlantic Monthly. The first reference draws the reader in with a direct reference, while the second goes so far as to identify all of the areas in the world where Du Bois believed the color-line was “the problem of the twentieth century”. All imply, whether directly or passively, that the color-line extends outside the bounds of the United States.
Du Bois’ changing attitude toward the phrase:
Many decades later, in 1952, nine years before he moved to Ghana, Du Bois wrote an essay for Jewish Life magazine about his experiences during a trip to Poland and his changing attitude toward his phrase “the color-line”. In the short essay, entitled “The Negro and the Warsaw Ghetto”, Du Bois wrote about his three trips to Poland, particularly his third in 1949, during which he viewed the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto. Du Bois wrote:
The result of these three visits, and particularly of my view of the Warsaw ghetto, was not so much clearer understanding of the Jewish problem in the world as it was a real and complete understanding of the Negro problem. In the first place, the problem of slavery, emancipation and caste in the United States was no longer in my mind a separate and unique thing as I had so long conceived it. It was not even solely a matter of color and physical and racial characteristics, which was particularly a hard thing for me to learn, since for a lifetime the color line had been a real and efficient cause of misery.
He goes on to write: “No, the race problem in which I was interested cut across lines of color and physique and belief and status and was a matter of cultural patterns, perverted teaching and human hate and prejudice, which reached all sorts of people and caused endless evil to all men.” These quotations are of note because they reflect an expansion of DuBois’ original definition of the color-line to include discrimination beyond that of color discrimination, Du Bois also pared down his definition to acknowledge that the “problem of the color-line” as he initially imagined it existed in the United States and did not manifest itself identically across the world. Though discrimination existed everywhere, Du Bois expanded his mindset to include discrimination beyond that of simply black versus white.
What are the “dark nations” and what is their relationship with capitalism according to DB?
Capitalism is based on exploitation: Owners pay workers less than the value of their work. Therefore, capitalism must always have a group to exploit. In global capitalism, where the capitalist economy overreaches the boundaries of the state, it is the same: There must be a group to exploit. Global capitalism finds such a group in the “dark nations.” Capitalists thus export their exploitation, and both capitalists and white workers in the core nations benefit, primarily because goods produced on the backs of sweatshop labor are cheaper.